Into the wilderness

Looking for a relaxing getaway far from the hustle and bustle of it all? Well, if you’re the kind who’d prefer to be in the lap of nature, amidst the wilderness, in the company of some wild animals, then here’s your chance to learn about some picture-perfect spots right within India!

Not everyone likes to spend their holidays in a place where there’s loud music, hordes of people, and a plethora of sights and attractions. Some of us actually prefer the sounds of nature and the picturesque surroundings of a lush forest. This week, we’re delighted to bring you some of the best destinations for wildlife getaways within India, complete with tips and tricks to make your trip more enjoyable. So if you’re planning that great escape, here’s your chance to pick from some of the best. And remember: summertime is the perfect time to plan a wild retreat, so go ahead and get cracking!

Tips to Keep in Mind on a Jungle Safari

  • If possible, select a forest or national park near your home that’s naturally beautiful and is known for good animal sighting.
  • To avoid any last-minute inconvenience, book your safari tickets online in advance.
  • Book your adventure well in advance and, ideally, stay in an eco-friendly resort, one that conveys the experience of living in the jungle.
  • Do not wear anything bright that can frighten the animals. Instead, wear clothes in camouflaging colours. Olive green, brown, and khaki are safe choices.
  • Carry a good camera so that you can capture the moment, but don’t get overexcited in the process and miss seeing the actual scene live. Do not use flash photography; it may scare away or even irritate the animals.
  • Binoculars are very helpful to sight animals at a distance in the wilderness.
  • Follow the instructions of the naturalist and guide who accompany you, and do not get out of the jeep unless instructed to do so.
  • Avoid wearing or carrying anything that is flashy.
  • Do not smoke or litter while in the forest. Help keep it clean.
  • Before you set out on the journey, do some research about the forest and animals so you’re prepared what to expect.
  • Now that we’ve covered some of the dos and don’ts, take a look at some of country’s best options for jungle trips.                        --- Niharika

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

One of the 49 tiger reserves in India, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was established in 1995 by merging Tadoba National Park and Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary. One of Maharashtra’s largest national parks, TATR is home to approximately 70 or more tigers. The forest sprawls over an area of 1,728 square kilometres and is divided into the buffer and core zones.

The reserve gets its name from god Tadoba or Taru, who is revered by the tribal people of the forest, and for the river Andhari, which snakes through these dense forests. The forest has ample water bodies that provide fresh water for the animals, including the picturesque Tadoba Lake, Erai Dam, Kolsa Lake, and Junoria Lake, along with some other smaller water bodies.

A dry deciduous forest, it is home to a wide species of fauna, including the famous Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, wild dogs, bison, sloth bear, Indian gaur, jungle cat, sambar deer, barking deer, Indian python, monitor lizard, marsh crocodiles, giant wood spider, and more. Your tour through the forest is likely to be punctuated by the call of a deer or langur.

Tadoba is considered as one of those wildlife parks where the chances of sighting a tiger is as high as 98%. And you may also be lucky enough to spot a sloth bear, a leopard, or even wild dogs—all of which are rarer to sight than the tiger itself. Be alert, stay quiet, and keep your cameras ready for you never know when you might spot a wild animal!

How to get there?
By road: 40 kms from Chandrapur, 180 kms from Nagpur, and 70 kms from Umred
Nearest airport : Nagpur (150 kms)
Best time to visit : October to June
Places to stay : V Resorts Mahua Tola, Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge, Tadoba Tiger Kind Resort, Svasara Jungle Lodge, The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge

Pench National Park

Also known as Mowgli Bairan Pench Sanctuary, Pench National Park is nestled in the southern region of the Satpura Hills and is named after the Pench River which flows through the park. Situated on the border of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, it became a national park in 1983 and in 1992 was established as a tiger reserve.

Spread across 1,179 square kilometres, Pench is dominated by mixed forests with considerable shrub cover and open grass. Pench has the highest density of herbivores in India, and is especially famous for large herds of gaurs, nilgai, wild dogs, and wild boars. The key predator here is of course the tiger, followed by leopard and wolf. Other large species here include sloth bear, chinkara, jackal, porcupine, hyena, and many others.

While you are waiting to catch a glimpse of the majestic tiger, explore the forest that is home to over 285 species of resident and migratory birds like grey-headed fishing eagle, brahmini ducks, and barheaded geese. The flora includes several rare and endangered plants like sal, terminalia genus, arjuna and axlewood.

Kanha Tiger Reserve

Kanha Tiger Reserve is one of the largest national parks of Madhya Pradesh, located right in the heart of the country. It was created in 1955 and was made a tiger reserve in 1973. Home to a significant population of Royal Bengal Tigers, Indian leopards, sloth bears, barasingha, lush sal, and bamboo, the forest served as inspiration to Rudyard Kipling for his novel, The Jungle Book.

Apart from the other trees and plants, the famous Indian ghost trees can be spotted in abundance here. Dense forestland, it has a good number of shrubs and climbers, too.

While it is very common to spot sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, and nilgai, it is somewhat difficult to catch a glimpse of the sloth bear, for it usually resides inside the thick forest. Several species of turtles and reptiles can also be seen near water bodies.

How to get there?
By road: Nagpur – 250 kms; Raipur – 210 kms
Nearest airport: Nagpur and Raipur
Best time to visit: October to May
Places to stay: Kanha Village Eco Resort, Tuli Tiger Resort, Kanha Resort, Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Pug Mark Resort, 7 Tigers Resort

Bandhavgarh National Park

Located in the Umaira district of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park is located 165 kilometres from Jabalpur. The Vindhya and Satpura ranges are two important forest belts of central India, sheltering a major share of the tiger population. The area was previously the private property of the Maharajas of Rewa, who used it as a hunting ground, but later handed the land over to the government. The core area is spread over 716 square kilometres, while the buffer zone is 820 square kilometres.

More than 20 streams flow through the park, and the soil here is generally sandy. Named after the Badhavgarh Fort, it stands for bandhav which means brother and garh which means fort. It is believed that Lord Rama gave this fort to his younger brother, Lakshmana, after defeating Ravana, to keep a watch over Lanka.

This forest was once known to be the white tiger jungle, but unfortunately no white tigers have been reported here in the last 50 years. Still, it remains home to a huge flourishing biodiversity, and the park has the largest breeding population of leopards and various species of deer, and features over 250 species of birds.

How to get there?
By road or train: Umaira – 35 kms
Nearest airport: Khajuraho – 200 kms; Jabalpur – 150 kms
Best time to visit: October to June
Places to stay: Aranyak Resort, Junglemantra Resorts, Wild Haven Resorts, Infinity Resort

Bandipur National Park

Hailed as one of India’s most beautiful national parks, Bandipur National Park is located on the Mysore-Ooty highway in Karnataka, amidst the surroundings of the towering Western Ghats. Covering an area of about 876 square kilometres, together with the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, and Nagarhole National Park, it creates India’s largest biosphere reserve popularly known as the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Bandipur National Park occupies a special place in India’s eco-conservation efforts.

It has a sizable number of tigers and other animals like sambar deer, chital, mouse deer, four-horned antelope, wild dogs, panther, Malabar squirrel, porcupines, and the black-knapped hare. Birds like jungle fowl and green pigeon can be spotted here, too.

Centrally located in the southern region, it is often visited by people from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

How to get there?
By road: Mysore – 80 kms; Bengaluru – 220 kms; Ooty – 70 kms
Nearest airport : Mysore (70 kms)
Best time to visit : October to May
Places to stay: Trails, Dhole Den, Wildflower Tusker, Bandipur Safari Lodge, The Bandipur Cottage

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

If you’re a nature lover but also a history buff, then Ranthambore is the place for you. Among other things, the park is known as a famous heritage site because of its many beautiful and significant ruins. Located in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, it was previously a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. It has since become a major tourist spot that is home to over 40 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 45 types of reptiles, and over 300 kinds of plants.

Owing to its small size (Ranthambore National Park is 282 square kilometres while Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is 1,334 square kilometres), it is relatively easy to sight wild tigers, making it a preferred destination for wildlife lovers and photographers to visit. And the dry deciduous habitat makes it much easier to spot a tiger in the wild. Here, you don’t just get to see Bengal tigers, but also noor, machali, star male, unnis, and so on.  

The Aravali and the Vindhyan hill ranges meet at Ranthambore; hence it is rich in biodiversity. The park is only open between October and June, and receives more than 100,000 wildlife enthusiasts every year from all over the world.

So if you’re planning your first ever wildlife trip, why not start with Ranthambore? You’re almost surely going to spot a tiger here!

How to get there?
By road: Jaipur – 180 kms; Bharatpur – 202 kms
Nearest airport: Jaipur –180 kms
Time to visit: October to June
Places to stay: Ranthambhore National Resort, Ananta Palace Ranthambore, Ranthambhore Heritage Haveli Resort, Ranthambhore Forest Resort, Dev Vilas, Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge, Oberoi Vanya Vilas

Sunderban National Park

Located at the southeastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district in West Bengal, Sunderban National Park covers an area of 10,000 square kilometres of land and water. More than half of the park is located in India, while the rest is in Bangladesh. It is the world’s largest area of mangrove forests that is home to rare species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. It also forms the largest tiger reserve and national park in India.

The park got its name from a mangrove plant known as Sundari (Heritiera Minor). While the main attractions of the Sunderbans are of course the tigers, it also has an interesting array of other animals. These include the monitor lizard, estuarine crocodile, and the Olive Ridley turtle, for which there is a conservation program in the park. Leopard, Indian rhinoceros, javan rhinoceros, swamp deer, hog deer, and water buffalos have become almost extinct in the delta in recent times.

At this national park, you’ll find locals wandering around fearlessly in boats or on bikes, and sometimes even on foot! Everybody here seems to be quite aware of and comfortable with the wild animals, but tourists should take utmost care; the park is home to wild animals, which can charge at anyone given the slightest whiff of fear or insecurity.

How to get there?
By road: Namkhana – 105 kms; Canning – 64 kms
Nearest airport: Kolkata – 166 km
Best time to visit: December to February
Places to stay: Sunderban Mangrove Retreat, Sunderban Tiger Camp, Solitary Nook Resort

Kaziranga National Park

Aworld heritage site and one of India’s glory spots, Kaziranga is home to two thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceros, and also boasts the highest density of tigers in the country. Although sighting tigers here is very tricky because of the tall grass that acts as a camouflage, their presence is felt by way of pug marks, kills and territorial markings. The park also features a large population of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer, all of which are rare to find elsewhere.

Apart from a jeep safari, elephant rides are a popular means of spotting animals in this park. As you enter you can see the pristine hues of nature, where wild animals move around freely. Bordered by the Brahmaputra River on the north and the Karbi Anglong mountains to the south, the park presents a huge range of natural beauty. Kaziranga adopts its name from Karbi, a woman who ruled the area in ancient times. Travellers from around the country and the entire world come here to open the doors of diverse wildlife and experience the exquisiteness of the natural empire.

How to get there?
By train: from Furkating – 80 kms
Nearest airport: Jorhat – 97 kms; Guwahati – 217 kms
Best time to visit: November to April
Places to stay: Resort Borgos, Nature Hunt Eco Camp,
Wild Grass Lodge, Kaziranga, IORA The Retreat, Kaziranga, Jupuri Ghar Resort, Kaziranga


Corbett Tiger Reserve

One of the most exciting and lush forests of India, the Corbett Tiger Reserve perfectly captures the diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes of the area. The beauty of the park was formally recognised in 1936 when it became the first national park to be established in mainland Asia. The park gets its name from James Edward Corbett, a noted hunter turned conservationist.

The park extends over 1,288 square kilometres in Uttarakhand and has beautiful streams, rivers, and ridges crisscrossing the terrain, making it a vivid landscape. The most important residents of the park are the Bengal tiger and the Asiatic elephant. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the enormous yet beautiful elephants bathing in the water or the tigers attacking a prey, this is your spot. In addition, Corbett boasts 550 species of avifauna, and is one of the richest bird regions of the country.

During your visit, make it a point to go bird watching in the morning or evening. Or take an elephant ride specially organised for wildlife enthusiasts to soak in the feeling of being in the jungle. There’s nothing better than spotting a wild carnivore from atop an elephant!    

How to get there?
By road: from Ramnagar – 15 kms; Delhi to Ramnagar – 240 kms
Nearest airport: Dehradun – 171 kms; Delhi – 260 kms
Best time to visit: November 15 – June 15
Places to stay Aahana Resort In Corbett, Mango Bloom Resort, Parfait The Roar Resort Corbett, Corbett Wild Iris Spa & Resort

Gir National Park

The royal abode of Asiatic lions, Gir is the only forest that houses the king of the jungle in India. It is a perfect destination for wildlife aficionados as it has a very diverse range of species and varied topography. Commonly known as Sasan Gir, this wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat was established in 1965. Previously a hunting ground for the British, during their reign in India, it covers an area of 1412 square kilometres.

In the year 1899, after a major famine broke the country, the number of lions decreased in the forest considerably, and the species was almost close to extinction. It was then that the government banned the process of hunting, in 1960 and has since been in efforts of increasing the count of lions. As of 2010 the count of lions in the area rose to around 400. Apart from this majestic animal, the national park is also a perfect dwelling for varied flora and fauna, including 2,375 species of fauna, 300 species of birds, 37 kinds of reptiles, and 38 types of mammals. The group of carnivores, apart from the Asiatic lions, that dwell here include Indian cobras, striped hyenas, Indian mongoose, golden jackals, and Indian leopards, while the herbivores include chital, antelope, four-horned chinkara, nilgai, blackbucks, and others.  

If you’re tired from the scorching heat in the jungle, you can also visit the Kamleshwar Dam, the most requisite dam in the area, built over the Hiran River, that serves as the lifeline of the area. One can spot great varieties of marsh crocodiles here. There is also a famous Lord Krishna temple—the Tulsi Shyam Temple that makes for a picturesque shot.

So head to Gir forest to catch a glimpse of the king of the jungle in the wild upon a jeep safari or you can ever opt for the early morning lion shows wherein you can get to see the lions at close range.

How to get there?
By road: Rajkot—65 kms; Junagadh—60 kms; Ahmedabad—360 kms
Nearest airport: Diu—92 kms; Rajkot—160 kms
Best time to visit: December to March
Places to stay: The Fern Gir Forest Resort, The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest, The Gir Garden, Lords Resorts Sasan Gir, Gir Jungle Lodge